Beginners guide to fly fishing

learn fly fishing

Image source: Flickr
Passing on the wisdom

New to fly fishing? Not sure what equipment you need to buy? Or how to get started? This guide is for you.

Here we cover the very basics of fly fishing. We don’t pretend this is all you need to know to capture a record fish – but it is just enough to get you fly fishing. The rest takes a lifetime of practise – enjoy!

Get a rod licence

Image source: Angling Times

Image source: Angling Times
Don’t forget your rod license

Next time you nip out for a paper, pick up a rod licence too. You need one to legally fish any inland waterway in England and Wales – anywhere but the sea. You can get one from your local Post Office or online. No fishing licence is necessary in Scotland. In addition, wherever you are in the UK, you will need to obtain the owners permission to fish the river or lake, or pay for a day ticket, which is the most common way of being able to fish a water body.

Here are the current rod licence prices:

Rod licence pricing UK 2014
Rod licence Type

Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse

Full annual £27
Senior/Disabled concession £18
Junior concession (U16) £5
Children under 12 FREE
8-day £10
1-day £3.75

Salmon & Sea Trout

Full annual £72
Senior/Disabled concession £48
Junior concession (U16) £5
Children under 12 FREE
8-day £23
1-day £8

Choosing a rod

shakespeare fly rods

Image source: Shakespeare
A fine selection of fly rods and flies

Next up you need a fly fishing rod. Here your choice depends to a large extent on where you’re hoping to fish, what species you’re most interested in catching, and whether or not you’re likely to be travelling with your fishing rod.

Fly rod selection is a tough subject, so check out our guide to choosing the right fly fishing rod for more tips and advice.

Prices for a new fly rod range from around the £50 mark to £300 and upwards, but to get you started, you won’t go too far wrong with one of these little beauties – an Airflo elite fly fishing kit – a four piece rod, reel and quality fly line in a cordura tube, starting from just £129.99.

Here’s what the guys here at Fishtec thought of it when it was launched:

Which fly reel?

Die cast or machine cut? Large arbor? Click drag or disc drag? When it comes to choosing the right fly reel for you, the most important question is, what type of fish are you trying to catch?

For smaller fish like trout, a good and inexpensive choice is this Airflo Sniper Fly Reel – incredible value for money and even better – it comes with a free fly line.

If it’s larger freshwater species or saltwater varieties you intend to target, you’ll be looking for something heavier duty and with a great drag system, like the Airflo Xceed, as recommended by Trout and Salmon Magazine as one of their top reels of 2014.

For more information on reel selection, read our fly reel buying guide.

Fly line and leader

fly line

Image source: Greg Davis via Trek Earth
Flaming fly lines

Now for your first fly line. For beginners we recommend a floating line because you’ll be able to use it for fishing both dry flies on the surface, and wet flies just under the water. The weight of your line or AFTM rating should match the rod you fish with, so make sure you look for the information written just above the handle of your rod.

Taper is an important factor to consider as it affects the distance you can cast, and the presentation of the fly. Then there’s the backing – usually braided, it’s the line you tie your specialist fly line to.

With so many factors to consider, what you really need is a guide to fly lines and backing. Luckily we prepared one earlier…and just in case you need a quick recap, check out this brief guide from Fishtec’s Tim Rajeff:

The fly

Will it be a Greenwell’s Glory, a Woodcock and Yellow, or a Red Palmer? The choice of fly patterns is endless.

Some fly fishermen fish just one pattern in different sizes, others have an armoury of tufted hooks at their disposal. The best advice here is to ask around to find out what works in your local water – and be prepared to experiment.

A top tip is to take more than you think you’ll need. You can expect to lose a few – especially to begin with.

Fly fishing clothing

Traditional fly fishing clothing

Image source: Unaccomplished Angler Traditional fly fishing clothing

A set of neoprene chest waders, a Harris tweed jacket and hat with a feather in it – that’s all you need to keep you warm and dry isn’t it? Well, sort of.

Fly fishing clothing needs to do three things: wick moisture away from your skin; hold warm, dry air close to your body; and keep the elements out. Layers are the answer, the more you have, the more clothes you can take off as it gets warmer, or put on as the temperature drops.

Here’s a guide to carp fishing clothing – don’t worry – it works just as well for fly fishermen. Layer up and get out there!

Putting it all together

We could try to show you how to cast – but diagrams, video tutorials and written instructions won’t get you very far. To learn to cast, you need lessons from an expert, and you’re in luck because here at Fishtec, we have our very own directory of fly fishing instructors.

The good news is, you can pick up the basics in a day. But then you’ll need to perfect your technique which will take you…a lifetime! What are you waiting for?

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